Heaven and Earth

Hermanus HarborIf you are ever lucky enough to make a trip to South Africa, as a wine lover you will most likely tour dozens of the gorgeous wineries of Stellenbosch, make an excursion to Groot Constantia, take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, and spend a few nights on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.  That would make for a wonderful trip!

But if you could extend your trip for just one more day, you might find yourself in a place that deservedly calls itself “Heaven and Earth.”  Here’s how to get there:  Rent a car and drive 70 miles southeast of Cape Town.  Stop in the town of Hermanus, a former fishing village built alongside Walker Bay that rivals the beauty of any beach-front Riviera in the world, complete with umbrella-tabled wine bars lining the sand.

Hermanus Whale CrierHermanus has many a claim to fame, including the fact that it employs the only full-time whale crier in the world.  The town’s centerpiece, Walker Bay, is a breeding ground for the Southern Right Whale and in 2001 was declared a whale sanctuary – meaning no boats or water craft of any kind are allowed in the water from July until November.  During season, the whales can be seen from the cliffs along the shore, and when the whale crier sounds his kelp horn people pour out of their homes to watch the show.

Just before the entrance to Hermanus you’ll find the turn-off to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.  It is a valley of indescribable beauty, the name, after all, is Afrikaans for “Heaven and Earth.”  Hemel-en-Aarde is home to the southernmost vineyards in South Africa, and due to its proximity to Walker Bay and the South Atlantic Ocean, some of the coolest as well.

Part of the Walker Bay Wine District, there are three wine-producing wards in Hemel-en-Aarde.  Hemel-en-Aarde Valley begins less than a mile from the shore.  A few miles inland, along the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde Road (R320), resides the second ward, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.  Extending 11 miles into the valley formed by the majestic Overberg Mountains, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge is the furthest inland.

hermanus vineyardThere are currently just over a dozen wineries in Hemel-en-Aarde.  The pioneer in the area’s wine history is undoubtedly Tim Hamilton Russell, the founder of the Hamilton-Russell Estate.  Tim purchased his 170 hectare property in 1975 after a ten-year search for the ideal spot in which to plant cool climate grapes in South Africa.  Soon thereafter, the estate began producing world-class wines; one of which won the 2003 International Wine Challenge as the best Pinot Noir in the world.  This success paved the way for other wineries in the region.

Another Hemel-en-Aarde Winery that might sound familiar is Bouchard Finlayson. Established in 1989, Bouchard Finlayson is a boutique winery located on a 125-hectare property with just over 22 hectares under vine.  The remainder of the property remains a conservatory dedicated to the pristine, indigenous “fynbos” flora of the Western Cape.  The leading wine of Bouchard Finlayson is Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, grown in the Bokkeveld Shale and clay-based soils of Galpin Peak Mountain, at an elevation of 2,000 feet.

hermanus vineyards bouchardOther outstanding wineries of Hemel-en-Aarde include Creation Estate, Southern Right, Newton Johnson, and Jakob’s Vineyard, but, alas, they are hard to find outside of South Africa.  You’ll just have to make that trip…

For more information:

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

The Society of Wine Educators

SWE New logo wtext

 

 

The Society of Wine Educators is a membership-based nonprofit organization focused on providing wine and spirits education along with the conferral of several certifications. The Society is internationally recognized, and its programs are highly regarded both for their quality and relevance to the industry. 

The mission of the SWE is to set the standard for quality and responsible wine and spirits education and professional certification. 

Extreme AVA’s

vernaccia san gimignanoAccording to the website for the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), an AVA is defined as “a delimited grape-growing region having distinguishing features, a name, and a delineated boundary.”  The website goes on to state that “these designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin.”

 

Anyone, including a winemaker, landowner, or interested party may file a petition for the recognition of an AVA.  The petition must include:

  • Evidence that the proposed name of the AVA is “directly related to the location” and that the name is locally or nationally known to refer to the region.
  • USGS maps with the boundaries of the proposed region clearly marked.
  • An explanation as to why the geographic boundaries are drawn where they are as well as a description of the distinguishing features such as climate, geology, elevation, or soils that differentiate growing conditions from the area outside the proposed AVA’s borders.
  • While there are no size restrictions, proof must be provided that either total acreage or a broad distribution of viticultural activity across the region is enough to constitute both a “grape growing region” and “an area in which viticulture exists.”

Cabernet TopOnce an AVA is established, at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must be grown in the specified area if an AVA is referenced on its label.

While of course I agree with the official governing body, I also like to think of The American Viticultural Areas like a big, unruly political family.  Someone, it seems, is always trying to take the helm or grab all the attention as the biggest, the newest, or the always-and-forever reigning patriarch. I’ve been trying to keep up with it all since the AVA system since it began back in 1980.

As of today (March 13, 2013), here are the contenders:

Oldest AVA:  Augusta – Located near the town of Augusta, Missouri, the Augusta AVA was approved on June 20, 1980.

Smallest AVA:  Cole Ranch – Located in Mendocino, California, the Cole Ranch AVA spans just 62 acres.  That’s less than one quarter of a square mile.

Largest AVA:  The Upper Mississippi Valley – The Upper Mississippi Valley AVA, approved on July 22, 2009, covers 29,914 square miles and includes parts of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

077Runners Up:  Coming in at #2, The Ohio River Valley AVA covers 26,000 square miles.  Third place goes to The Columbia Valley at 26,000 square miles.

Happiest AVA Names (Just for Fun):  Fair Play, Happy Canyon, Horse Heaven Hills, High Valley, and Rocky Knob.

Best Use of an Abbreviation:  Sta. Rita Hills

Most Mysterious Names:  Linganore, Lime Kiln, and Jahant (Comment below if you know what they mean!)

 

For more information:

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

Chianti’s New Cousin

red grapesChianti’s New Cousin:  Gran Selezione

 

Last month, the Chianti Classico Consorzio approved the creation of a new top-tier classification of Chianti Classico DOCG wines to be known as “Gran Selezione.”  The term is expected to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, and if so, will represent a group of wines “a quality level above” Chianti Classico Riserva.

The first wines eligible to display the term on their label will be those from the 2010 vintage.

In the interest of “keeping it simple.” here is a quick look at how this new branch of the Chianti family tree fits in with its brothers and sisters:

 

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG:

  • Must be produced from 100% estate-grown fruit
  • Minimum 30 months of aging
  • Is intended to acknowledge vineyard-specific wines
  • Will represent approximately 7% of the production of Chianti Classico

Tuscany for ChiantiChianti Classico Riserva DOCG:

  • Minimum 24 months of aging
  • Minimum 12.5% abv

Chianti Classico DOCG:

  • Minimum 12 months of aging
  • May be released October 1 of the year following harvest
  • Minimum 12% abv

All versions of Chianti Classico must be a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, produced from grapes grown within the 100-square miles of the designated Chianti Classico region.  Up to 10% Canaiolo may be included, along with up to 15% other red varieties.  Of these “other” varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are often used.

Chianti DOCG

  • Aged for at least 7 months.  Most Chianti DOCG is allowed to be released March 1 following the vintage year; the sub-zones of Colli Fiorentini, Montespertoli and Rufina require a further three months and not released until 1 June.
  • Chianti Superiore DOCG may be released September 1st of the year following harvest.
  • May be made from grapes grown anywhere in the Chianti DOCG zone, with the exception of the Chianti Classico DOCG area.
  • Minimum 11.5% Alcohol.
  • Minimum of 70% Sangiovese, may include “other suitable red grapes”.
  • Sangiovese in TuscanyMay include up to 6% white grapes; namely Trebbiano and Malvasia
  • Yield limited to 4 tons per acre

As any serious wine student should know, there are seven subzones of the Chianti DOCG, in addition to Chianti Classico.  Do you know what they are???

For more information::

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Welcome to our Blog!

Red-Wine-DecanterWelcome to the first post of “Wine, Wit, and Wisdom,” the Official Blog of the Society of Wine Educators.

We hope to be your source for the latest news and events in the world of wine and spirits. We hope to be able to educate you a bit along the way as well!

Stay tuned as we build our new site…and if you’d like to submit an event, post a job opening, or flex your writing skills as a guest blogger, contact us at bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org anytime.

Cheers!

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